By Chuck Strouse
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She's an unusually cautious driver, stopping at yellow lights, signaling carefully for the simplest lane change. She eventually pulls slowly into the half-moon driveway of the two-story Tudor-style house. She parks near the older Bentley sedan in front of the home's big wooden door. Elena is afraid the five German shepherds have gotten loose, and she asks a house worker to put them in the basement.
Vladimir hops onto a bicycle. Elizabeth asks for a cookie.
The dark wood paneling in the foyer makes it seem particularly dark, but there's an orange glow coming from a stained glass window. Through glass doors, there's a glimpse of the estate's sweeping acres, which include elaborate gardens, a pond with ducks, and a playground for the children.
In a room on one side of the foyer, two grand pianos can be seen through double doors. On the other side is a sunroom with a large swing and a sideboard with a photo of Linda. It's also where Elena keeps a few peacock feathers and her dried and silk flowers. She and her children live in a few rooms that seem to have been intended by the home's builders as accommodations for live-in staff. She points out that for all of the home's luxury, she is actually denied access to its main part, which is up a grand staircase. "I am here like a guest. I cannot move. I cannot touch anything. If the kids break something, he makes me pay for it."
Because Elena herself can't enter McMahan's part of the mansion, she can't show the bedroom where, as Linda testified, he seduced his daughter by showing her the first half-hour of the movie Braveheart.
"The day he settled everything with Linda, he began to treat me like dirt again," she says.
After a custody hearing last month, Elena says she became concerned that she and her lawyer were no match for McMahan's legal team. Though a judge appointed a guardian for the two small children, Elena says her greatest fear is that her husband's wealth will buy him custody of Vladimir and Elizabeth.
She hopes telling her story now will convince McMahan to stop waging war with her in family court. She wants sole custody of the two children; she wants his visits with them to be supervised. "I am not fighting him because of the money," she says. "Nothing could be worse for me than to lose these kids. I cannot imagine for them to be with him alone."
It isn't the first time, she says, that she has worried about losing custody of her children. During their 2005 divorce action, Elena says McMahan showed up hand-in-hand with Linda. "He wanted me to be deported to the Ukraine.... She was with him. He wanted to take my kids and raise them with Linda."
She says her affidavit forced McMahan to give up that plan.
Today McMahan alleges in court documents that he fears Elena will flee with the children to the Ukraine, and he won a court order that requires Elena to stay within 90 miles of New York City. He also refuses to allow her to move to the Brighton Beach apartment, where she says she feels safer.
And now, she says, McMahan is planning on leaving the country altogether, after the publication of "Daddy's Girl" embarrassed him from Wall Street to Fisher Island. "In Dubai, people do not care, but in America and in Europe, they don't want to do business with him anymore."
Former McMahan Securities executive Michael Shillan, who recently won an arbitration case against McMahan for back pay, says Elena is right about McMahan's business suffering after his affair with Linda went public.
"I don't know if anyone really understands all of his businesses," Shillan says. "I have a pretty good sense of what he is worth. When I left, he had about a $200 to $250 million net worth." But Shillan believes the hedge fund McMahan manages has shrunk from about $4 billion to half that, in part because of the New Times story and because about the same time, the convertible securities market took a hit. Also in September, the hedge fund called Amaranth Advisors LLC dropped from $9 billion to $3 billion in one week because of heavy investment in natural gas futures.
"Let's face it, after your story came out and it was reprinted in quite a few places, that's really not the kind of guy you want managing your money," Shillan says.
"My personal experience is once you get on Bruce's bad side, he tends to never forgive and forget, even when he's wrong," continues Shillan, who was once close to McMahan.
But Elena believes there is one person McMahan could forgive -- Linda. She points to the photograph of Linda that her father keeps in a gold frame in a prominent place at the Pelham estate.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they make up."